Sunday, June 24, 2012

My other blog

A while back, I set up another blog for the folk music group I'm in. The four of us are neighbors, and it's pretty casual (that's a nice way of saying it's not very professional), but I think we sometimes get a nice sound.

Yesterday we got together and recorded a few tunes, and I threw them up on the blog, which you can view here:

Whitney Street

I don't know how often we'll post over there, but I'll add it to my list on the side.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Think method

In my piano lessons, one of the pieces we've been working on, as I've mentioned, is the D minor prelude and fugue from WTC II. It has proved to be a worthy vehicle for all sorts of techniques and practice methods. Hands separate and together, staccato, legato, slow, fast, conducting with one hand while playing with the other, counting aloud, playing each note twice, playing different rhythms, with pedal, without pedal ... and so on (I've probably left some out). At my lesson last week, we had worked on it for a while, and my teacher sat back and said, "You sound like you're bored with this."

I said, "Maybe you're bored."

He said, "That may be! Anyway, I want you to not play this for a week. Don't play it until you come in for your next lesson."

And so, dutiful student that I am, I followed this instruction. I did practice mentally and look at the score (I even made a copy of it and took it on vacation with me). At my lesson yesterday, we were wrapping things up and I reminded him that I was supposed to play this on a recital in a few weeks, so I pulled out the music and played it for him. And you know, it was much better! Not sure how that worked.

Maybe like this?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


This past week, I've been doing this both physically (resting my overworked, tight, and burning arm muscles so they could get back to their normal state) and mentally (not thinking too much about playing music). It's kind of crazy how learning such a short, albeit intense, piece took up so much of my energy on both fronts. It was a serious challenge for this amateur musician, but in the big scheme of life, obviously not so important.

I arrived home yesterday from five days of vacation with my husband and no cello OR piano, and now I'm back at work, getting myself reorganized. Coming up in a few weeks, I'm scheduled to play on a piano recital. I've been planning to play a Bach prelude and fugue (D minor from Book II), but I'm still struggling greatly with trying to absorb and implement all my teacher's suggestions. It doesn't feel like "me" exactly, more like something imposed from the outside. Sometimes I think I am a little out of my depth on this; other times it seems about right.

And then the following week I'm going to this piano camp for adults: Piano Retreat. I need to figure out what I want to work on there. I was thinking maybe some more movements from "Scenes from Childhood" because they are short. And/or more Bach. But I'm not sure.

So there you have my groggy and jet-lagged update. Perhaps in a day or so I will be fully functioning again (and wondering why I posted anything on the Internet until I could think straight).

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I'm going to be brave (video from concert)

When I pulled out my recorder to review the audio of my performance the other day, I realized my friend who was recording for me had chosen to do video as well. It's very clear and gives a good idea of what the performance was like, so I have decided to share the whole thing. Here it is:

This was recorded on a Zoom Q3 and is completely unedited, unretouched (as if you couldn't tell!), and uncut. I'm pleasantly surprised that the video came out as well as it did with the low light in the venue. It is 8+ minutes because entrances, exits, and applause are included.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mission accomplished

So I'm done with Pezzo Capriccioso! I held it together very well (if I do say so myself) until the very end when I missed a few notes, but even there kept it going. I got lots of nice compliments from people afterward, and I actually enjoyed playing, even though I certainly don't look like it in this picture:

A friend of mine culled this from a smart phone movie she took. I would post the whole movie, but (a) the beginning was cut off and (b) I look like a grumpy old man the entire time. I swear, I wasn't upset at all, just concentrating really hard, though I was pretty relaxed.

I've got some audio, but I need to decompress a bit before I deal with it.

Friday, June 1, 2012

What (not) to wear, for the cello lady

I was mucking through some draft posts that I wrote for this blog and found this one, which is apropos as I once again prepare for a solo turn in front of an orchestra.


Portrait of Guilhermina Suggia by Augustus John

In an ideal world, music would transcend fashion. In actuality, what a performer wears affects how the audience responds.

Women have a harder time than men figuring out what to wear on stage. Men can wear a suit or a tuxedo (including nice comfortable shoes!), and as long as they don't wear white socks, they are okay.

Women have a much wider choice. We can do the modest and comfortable outfit, highlighting face and hands, or leave much less to the imagination. You can guess which end of the scale I've tended to (though there was the sleeveless harem pants jumpsuit I wore a few times in my 20s, but better not to dwell on that).

There are several requirements for female cello-playing garb that are not always easy to find in a store:
  • wide skirt (or pants), for obvious reasons
  • sleeves that are not too long or too wide (they get in the way)
  • plenty of room in the shoulders (for those big shifts and long bows)
  • no hard buttons or trim on the front of the garment or sleeve cuffs (they scratch the cello)
And then, most evening wear poses problems, hence my pet peeves, or things to avoid:
  • sleeveless or strapless or "strappy" tops (let's just say that I need a certain amount of coverage to avoid embarassment)
  • tight and uncomfortable garments
  • high heels (anything higher than about 2 inches throws my playing posture off completely, not to mention makes it difficult to walk out on stage carrying a cello)
I need all that, plus I want the garment to be flattering. It's not easy. I went through a phase when I made gowns for myself; looking back on it, they were not that bad, and it was a lot more fun and inexpensive than shopping for what I needed. These days, I end up tearing my hair out trying to find something nice to wear. I often end up fishing the basic black out of the closet.

Speaking of hair, this is another thing that no one ever mentions. The ideal cello posture is to sit with the neck of the cello close to your neck, so that the cello is as vertical as possible. This is because the left-hand fingers should be at close to a right angle to the strings for the best hand position and most secure intonation. It's impossible to sit this way if you're trying to manage a head full of long, flowing hair -- looks great, but whenever I try that, a little piece of hair always gets caught under my fingers just as I'm executing a shift, or my hair gets caught in the pegs when I'm making a tasteful gesture with my head.

This is why when I play a solo I have to brush all of my hair away from my face and stick it in a ponytail or a bun. I'd just cut it short, but years of hairdressers shaking their heads when I ask them if it would look good on me have scared me off of that.

After an experience with a teacher telling me I "looked like heck all the time," I became a little paranoid about my appearance and for a time put quite a bit of effort into it. I wore contact lenses, styled my hair, wore mascara, and teetered to my concerts in high heels. I played at Carnegie Hall once with a chamber group, in the small recital hall, and of course dragged all my primping accessories along (curling iron, make-up, pantyhose, etc.). One of the guys in the group seemed to find my preparations hilarious -- so irritating. Did he think I liked doing all that? Men reading this, here's the scoop: we would prefer being able to fling ourselves out into the world without artificial enhancements, but we are treated less positively without them.

I still like making an effort to look nice, but I've given up most of what my colleague found so amusing. I wear my glasses, just a touch of make-up, and the most comfortable shoes I can get away with. But it's hard to feel good about it all. The standards are so impossibly high, and the acquisition of all the necessary fashion accoutrements takes so much time and energy, and this all really has nothing to do with how the music is going to sound -- other than the dash of self-confidence that such things can add.